“Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks” Exhibit Showing at Brooklyn Museum Until August

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s notebooks are on display at the Brooklyn Museum. (Credit: Tseng Kwong Chi/Muna Tseng Dance Projects)

As a child, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) was a junior member of the Brooklyn Museum, which he used to visit with his mother and where he got a globalist view of art history that would provide fuel for his own later painting. He’s back at the museum now, part of that global history, in “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks.”

At the start of his career in the late 1970s, Mr. Basquiat was better known for words than for images: short, enigmatic, rap-rhythm phrases that he wrote on New York City walls and signed with a “SAMO©” tag. The phrases, like his Expressionist-style paintings, may have looked spontaneous, but the 160 unbound notebook pages in the exhibition show they were far from that. We see words tried out and scratched out, listed and rejected, sometimes accompanied by drawings. Some of the images are as avid and original as you would expect from this artist, but it’s the words that stand out. He was a poet who happened to find art first, and this is a poet’s show. (Through Aug. 23, 200 Eastern Parkway, at Prospect Park, NY, brooklynmuseum.org.)

article by Holland Cotter via nytimes.com

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